Social Media: A Battleground

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A recent Facebook post read, “Good morning, and what are we offended by today?” We are living in a highly-charged political atmosphere. It is amazing to see the amount of mud-slinging found on social media. This does not stop with comments made about candidates for office or current events, but the personal attacks on people who are posting, or responding, because of a candidate they support, or a disagreement on philosophy, policy, or personal belief are at an unprecedented high. Horrible things have been written among professed Christians. Does this kind of behavior build up the church? How do those outside of Christ view us as Christians when we are vicious and back-biting on a public forum?

The meaning of tolerance is changing. The traditional view of tolerance is the ability to disagree with others and yet be able to respect them, giving them the freedom to form their own beliefs and opinions, yet to live peacefully with them, as long as all actions are legal and not dangerous to themselves or others. In today’s culture, tolerance is morphing into another animal. Many people today believe that tolerance means that you will agree with the way others live, think, or believe and support them regardless of personal beliefs, moral values, or biblical views. Some well-known church leaders have started soft-soaping, some even changing, their stated beliefs in order to appear “tolerant”. Can we be tolerant without accepting ideas and beliefs that are contrary to God’s word? Can we disagree with other Christians without resorting to name-calling and mud-slinging?

Our words can be very powerful. The Bible teaches us that we must be careful in what we say and how we say it. We should not say things that cause others to become discouraged or to stir up anger. In Psalm 34:13 we are told to “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit” and in Proverbs 10:11 that “the mouth of the [uncompromisingly] righteous man is a well of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” We are further told in Proverbs 13:3 that “He who guards his mouth keeps his life, but he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” and in Proverbs 15:1 we are instructed to give a “soft answer” because this will turn “away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.”

God’s word teaches us to “…stand firm and hold fast to the traditions andinstruction which you were taught…” (II Thessalonians 2:15). We must understand that while we are expected to “stand firm” in what the Bible teaches us about acceptable ideas and behaviors, at the same time we must carefully consider our words. We should “guard our mouths” and seek the “soft answer,” not allowing ourselves to use “grievous words”.

When posting or responding on social media, our prayer should be the words of Psalm 19:14. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my [firm, impenetrable] Rock and my Redeemer.”

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All Scripture quoted from the Amplified Bible (AMP)

Faith Promise Prison Campus Launch

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I’m a roller coaster junkie. Put me in an amusement park, and I’m not thinking of the food or the shows. I’m thinking of one thing – roller coasters. And the scarier the better.

For those of you who share my love for adrenaline, you know the feeling when your roller coaster cart nears the top of the first climb. It’s a feeling in your stomach that’s a little hard to explain. It’s certainly a feeling of excitement, but it’s also mixed with a tinge of… what is it? It’s not exactly fear, but it’s something akin to it.

And that’s the same kind of feeling that I have right now. Knowing that in a few hours, I’ll be meeting up with a small group of volunteers and driving out to Bledsoe County Correctional Complex as Faith Promise Church launches its first prison campus.

Partnering with God Behind Bars, our Bledsoe County Campus will be unique to prison ministry -we will bring our entire worship service to the prison via video and large video screens. Not only will it give inmates the opportunity to experience Faith Promise, it also gives them a church home where they can stay connected once they leave prison.

All of our volunteers met together for the first time on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago for several hours of training. In addition to learning more about God Behind Bars and what to expect, they talked about what to do in a hostage situation, what to do if a riot takes place, and other fun stuff like that.

As a part of our training, we were told that we can only bring a single key and a driver’s license with us into the prison – no cell phones, no polo shirts, t-shirts, or jeans.

I didn’t think that I was going to be able to bring a camera along with me, so I figured that a blog post was in order and that I’d write about the campus launch instead. But half way through writing this article, I got a text from Micah. We got approval for a camera! If everything goes well, part two should include photography.

Please pray for our volunteers and our first service of our God Behind Bars Campus that launches tonight. Pray that God draws many to attend this service and that He touches many hearts.

And now I’m going to go rummage through my closet to see if I can find a pair of dress pants that still fits.

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Kyle Gilbert serves on staff as Pastor of Communications – overseeing social media, graphics, web, and Internet Campus for Faith Promise.

Couple serves remotely from Belgium on the Internet Campus

Each weekend, over 400 people connect online on the Faith Promise Church Internet Campus to watch the service and participate in the online chat room and one-on-one prayer.

The Internet Campus may not have chairs to set, floors to vacuum, or coffee to make, but it still needs volunteers to help keep the digital campus running smoothly.

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Enter Cody Stafford and his wife, Kasia, who live in Belgium and serve weekly on the Internet Campus from there.

Stafford, a 25-year-old Knoxville native, is a Senior Airman in the United States Air Force. He met his wife, Kasia, in Banbury, England, when he was stationed at RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire. Kasia, a Krakow, Poland, native was working as a landscape architect. The two married in 2014.

While Cody has been overseas since 2010, he first attended Faith Promise as a teen with a childhood friend. While searching for a church in Europe, Cody and Kasia decided to check out the Internet Campus.

“We were looking for church where we could become closer to Jesus and learn about Him – learn God’s Word,” Kasia wrote via email. “Cody proposed we check Faith Promise on line. And that is what we did. Ever since then, FP has become our place to worship,”

There was no question about whether or not to become involved, according to Cody.

“We watched one sermon and knew that was it,” Cody wrote.  “In the Small Things Big Changes series, Pastor Chris Stephens said that so many members don’t serve. That hit home for me. I have always been encouraged to serve, but I wasn’t in any fashion. So I filled out the communication card on the iCampus, and that’s were I met (Internet Campus Pastor) Kyle Gilbert. And now here we are!”

The two log on for online weekend services where they greet other cyber worshipers via the interactive chat tool and welcome them to the digital campus. They feel that they are the ones receiving the blessing.

“We think that serving is doing more for us than what we give to the church and God,” they wrote. “We are part of a community that have the same belief that God send his Son to save us – that here on earth it is just the journey that ends in heaven with Jesus.”

Cody and Kasia both came to know Christ at a young age.

“There are people watching the service that are a thousand-plus miles away with no other church like it for them to watch or be a part of. Churches like FP don’t exist in Europe,” Cody wrote.

They say they appreciate Pastor Chris’s teaching style.

“We really like the preaching of Pastor Chris Stephens, even though we’ve never gotten the chance to meet him. He is in your face, extremely informative to God’s word, and funny. It doesn’t matter if people want to hear it, he still says what we need to hear and in a loving way,” Cody wrote. “I wish that more preachers were like that. The Word is more understandable and clear – getting right into your heart.”

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Now stationed at NATO Programming Centre in Belgium, the two enjoy travel and recently returned from a week-long skiing and snowboarding trip to the French Alps. Cody is studying criminal justice at the American Military University. Kasia commutes between Belgium and England to continue working in landscape architecture.

They celebrated their first wedding anniversary on March 15 and are working towards becoming Core members at Faith Promise.

 


 

This week, Faith Promise is celebrating six years of broadcasting online through the Internet Campus. You can watch online five times each weekend: Saturdays at 6 pm, Sundays at 9 am, 10:20 am, 11:45 am, and 9 pm To find out more, or learn how you could serve, email Kyle Gilbert, Internet Campus & Communications Pastor, by going here.

 

Small Group Gathers Towels for Easter Weekend

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One small group at Faith Promise is serving this Easter, but they’re not teaching children, directing traffic or greeting people as they come to hear the message.

Instead, they’ve gathered towels.

As Senior Pastor Chris Stephens shares the message, He took my Place this weekend, attendees who have never been saved or baptized will have the chance to take that next step and become part of the family of God.

In 2014, nearly 300 people were baptized across all of our campuses during Easter services. As the church has prayed for 18,000 in attendance this year, we also pray that many will come to know Jesus and be baptized. This is where Amy Meyers’ small group stepped in.

Meyers belongs to Wade and Renee Adams’ small group, which is made up of a mixture of single men and women and married couples.

“My small group is all about hugs.  So I thought a towel would be the newly Baptized first hug from their other Christian brothers and sisters,” Meyers said.

In all, their group has gathered 80 towels to add to the baptism supplies.

“It seems like every time I look in the supply closet there’s not that many towels…certainly not enough for all that might come this Easter,” she said.

Meyers, who has been attending Faith Promise for about four years, began serving as a baptism assistant in November 2014. Baptism assistants help participants sign in and ensure they have shorts and t-shirts if needed. Assistants also pray with participants and help guide them through the process. After baptisms, assistants take the towels home to wash, dry, fold and bring the towels back to church.

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“When someone comes for baptism, sometimes they’re scared.  There’s lots of emotions going on.  I’ve found that usually the children are excited and ready to go, where the adults are more restrained.  I think it’s due to the emotions and thoughts in their minds,” Meyers said.

Pastor Chris is hopeful about attendance and baptisms for Easter weekend.

“I’m excited as everyone else is. Easter is the easiest time to get people to church. If you’ve watched any television the last two weeks…everything is Killing Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, and AD that starts on Easter,” he said.

The Easter message at Faith Promise will compare Jesus to Barabbas, the prisoner released from the Roman jail the day Jesus was crucified.

In Luke Chapter 23, the Bible says Jesus was taken to Pilate, who found him innocent. Still, the people demanded that Barabbas be released and Jesus be put to death. Barabbas had been jailed for rebellion and murder.

“The crowd called for Barabbas not Jesus,” Pastor Chris explained. “But Jesus is what they needed.”

Faith Promise Easter services begin at the Pellissippi Campus Wednesday night at 7:00 pm. A complete list of Easter service times and campus locations can be found here.

 


Faith Promise is a contemporary church with six campuses in the Knoxville region. Since its establishment in 1995, weekly attendance across all campuses has grown to more than 6,000 each weekend. Faith Promise has been recognized by Outreach Magazine as the 22nd fastest growing church in America. For more information, visit faithpromise.org.

Faith Promise and City of Knoxville Team Up with Emerald Youth Foundation for Inner-City Pool

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Cutting the ribbon at the restored E.V. Davidson Recreation Center pool are City Councilman Daniel Brown; Oscar Cruz, 7; Tank Strickland of Mayor Rogero’s office; Fynal Barnes, 6; senior pastor of Faith Promise Church Chris Stephens; Knoxville Parks & Recreation director Joe Walsh; TaTiyona Kaiser, 6; Emerald Youth president and CEO Steve Diggs and Terrance Rooks, 10.

 

Knoxville’s inner city has a swimming pool and a swim instructor after collaboration among Faith Promise Church, the City of Knoxville, and the Emerald Youth Foundation.

In September 2014, Faith Promise Senior Pastor Chris Stephens approached Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett to ask what the church could do to help the city.  The answer he received?  The city owned an indoor pool that sat empty and in disrepair.  Rogero suggested that Faith Promise help Emerald Youth Foundation reopen the pool, so the church contacted Emerald to learn more details.

Pastor Chris, Missions Pastor Brad Ervin, and Emerald Youth Foundation President and CEO Steve Diggs met Sept. 17, 2014, to talk about the pool located at the E. V. Davidson Recreation Center, 3124 Wilson Avenue.  Diggs came to the meeting with estimates for repairs and operating costs.  FPC donated $20,000 to the cause, which covered the repairs and the first two months of labor.  EYF had been using other pools within the city previously — this would be the first pool of their own for year-round practices and programs.

Meanwhile, former EYF swim coach and FP member Justin Baxter was looking for a career change and an opportunity to make a difference somehow.  One Sunday in October, Baxter heard Pastor Chris talk about the partnership between the church and EYF. Emerald Youth had told Baxter that this was their vision for the future, but Baxter had no idea this vision would be coming true so soon. Within a few weeks, Diggs called Baxter and asked him to start and manage a new program — the Emerald Youth Sports Swim School and Aquatics Program.  Baxter’s work began on Nov. 10.

“God has provided an opportunity for me to have a job and, hopefully, make a difference in children’s lives,” said Baxter.

The pool’s ribbon-cutting ceremony was Dec. 15 at the recreation center.  The focus of the swim school is to teach city kids the lifelong skill of swimming.  One of Baxter’s goals is to show kids how the water can provide great exercise and be fun.

“There have been 160-plus kids in swim lessons since the pool opened.  We also started holding Community Splash Days once a month where the community can come out and swim and enjoy the pool,” Baxter said.

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Future plans include lifeguard classes, swim team practice between seasons, and learn-to-swim classes for adults and kids not in Emerald’s after-school program and aerobic classes.

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Faith Promise is a multi-site church in East Tennessee with the vision to make it hard to go to Hell from East Tennessee.  Each weekend, more than 6,000 people worship at Faith Promise via five area campuses or online.  The Emerald Youth Foundation’s mission is to raise up youth who love Jesus Christ and become effective leaders who renew their communities. They serve close to 2,000 young people each year through faith, education, and sports programs.

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